Clayton Having Sophomore Jinx?

Last year's rookie sensation has been slowed down in second season.

By Jeff Berlinicke

Michael Clayton's sophomore season hasn't gone according to plan, but he'll get the chance to redeem himself in front of his former stomping grounds on Sunday.

Clayton and the Bucs will travel to Baton Rouge, La., this weekend to take on the struggling Saints and it will be a homecoming of sorts for Clayton who played his college football at LSU. The Saints are playing most of their home games this season at LSU after Augusts' hurricane wiped out most of New Orleans and damaged the Superdome.

Claytonis expecting to have more than 100 members of his family and friends on hand, but he feels he has something to prove to them. After a stunning rookie season in 2004, he has been the forgotten man in the Bucs offense this year. True, the Bucs are passing less with Chris Simms still tyring to learn the offense, but he has just 28 catches this season, good for 41st in the NFC. He has no touchdown catches and has been prone to drops. During Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Chicago Bears, Clayton dropped a crucial pass that was thrown low, but still catchable.

Bucs coach Jon Gruden allowed for Clayton's off-season knee surgery, but said Clayton has to step it up and become more of a force in the Bucs offense that has struggled often this season and is in a dogfight in the NFC Southeast.

Receiver Joey Galloway has stepped it up recently, but Clayton has had more than two catches in only one game since Week 3. Last season, Clayton led all rookie receivers with 80 catches and seemed to have developed a chemistry with Brian Griese that he doesn't have with Simms.

For the Bucs to generate any offense during the tough three-game road stretch facing them, and with a playoff berth on the line, Clayton will be key.


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